WESTPORT, Conn. – A cellphone is largely to thank for helping investigators capture Andrew Robert Levene, a.k.a Robert Thomas, the man suspected in the Dec. 8 murder of Westport resident and businessman Yekutiel Zeevi, owner of Y.Z. Jewelry Manufacturing.
Levene, 41, who previously used a Connecticut address, was arrested Monday in Spain on federal murder, robbery and firearm charges. According to an affidavit completed by U.S. Marshal James Masterson and Westport Detective Philip Restieri, Levene has a wife and two children, was formerly in the U.S. military and has family in Connecticut and New York.
The affidavit also details how investigators were led to Levene. The following is a summary of the investigation:
Ronen Konfino, Zeevi's associate who survived the shooting, told investigators that the suspect went by the name of Robert. Konfino also told investigators that Robert used a cellphone with the numbers 3-4-7 in it.
Investigators looked at call records for Y.Z. Jewelers and Zeevi's personal cellphone. Records showed one line at the Post Road East business received a call at 3:45 Dec. 8 from a 3-4-7 number. There was also a call made from Zeevi's cellphone to that same 3-4-7 number at 8:25 p.m. Dec. 8.
Investigators traced the phone and found it was subscribed to a Robert Thomas in New York City. Upon searching the phone's records, which showed it was activated Aug. 29, investigators discovered it was used to call several jewelers. Also, investigators said that from Aug. 29 to Dec. 8, there were several extended time periods during which no outgoing calls or texts were made. Records show the phone was often used nearby airports immediately before each extended period of nonuse. This promoted investigators to request information on people who traveled internationally on those days. This is what they learned:
▪ Aug 3: A man by the name of Andrew Robert Levene bought a roundtrip airline ticket from Philadelphia to Barcelona, Spain.
▪ Aug 4: Levene departed Philadelphia International Airport and arrived in Barcelona on Aug. 5.
▪ Aug. 9: Levene departed Barcelona and returned to Philadelphia.
A review of the suspect's phone showed that beginning Aug. 30, several calls and text messages were placed to jewelry stores and store owners, starting with an unnamed store in New York City. When investigators interviewed the owner of the unnamed jewelry store, the owner said a man fitting Levene's description came in and looked at a ring in late August or early September. The man stated his name was Robert Thomas and left the same 3-4-7 phone number given to Zeevi and Konfino.
▪ Sept. 7: The owner of the unnamed New York City jewelry store received a text message from the suspect's phone. Records show the text was sent in the vicinity of Newark, N.J. About 25 minutes later, at 6:25 p.m., Levene and his family departed Newark International Airport for Barcelona.
Investigators say Levene purchased the four one-way tickets to travel from Newark to Barcelona on Aug. 30. Passport records show the tickets were for Levene, a woman who has been identified as his wife, and their two children. Immigration authorities told investigators there's no indication Levene’s wife or children have returned to the United States since their Sept. 7 departure.
▪ Sept. 26: Levene flew from Barcelona to J.F.K. International Airport in New York.
No outgoing calls or texts were made from the phone after the Sept. 7 flight to Barcelona through Sept. 26, the affidavit says.
▪ Sept. 28: The suspect phone sent text messages to the owner of the unnamed jewelry store in New York. The last text message sent was at 4:54 p.m. near J.F.K. International Airport. About 40 minutes later, Levene departed J.F.K. for Madrid.
After the last text message was sent Sept. 28, no outgoing calls or text messages were made through Dec. 5.
▪ Dec. 4: Zeevi contacted Konfino and said he had a customer interested in purchasing several large diamonds. Zeevi told Konfino to locate diamonds that were 2 to 3 carats in size and valued at $45,000 to $75,000, to meet the prospective buyer's specifications.
▪ Dec. 5: Levene flew from Madrid to Philadelphia. Later that day, a man wearing a black driving cap and dark glasses entered a jewelry store in Philadelphia and asked about buying diamonds. The man identified himself as Robert Thomas and gave employees the same 3-4-7 phone number provided to Zeevi and Konfino. The man was captured on video surveillance of several jewelry stores in Philadelphia.
▪ Dec. 5: Konfino called Zeevi and told him he had found the diamonds. Zeevi then told Konfino he arranged to meet the prospective customer at his business, Y.Z. Jewelry Manufacturing, on Dec. 7.
▪ Dec. 6: An outgoing call from the phone was made to an unnamed jewelry business in Connecticut. One incoming call that day was from a jeweler in Pennsylvania.
▪ Dec. 7: At least two phone calls were made to another unnamed jewelry store in Connecticut.
During the murder investigation, police interviewed the owner of one of the Connecticut jewelry stores called from the phone. The owner said a man who identified himself as Robert made an appointment to view diamonds. At about 12:30 p.m. Dec. 7, the owner said a man wearing a dark hat and glasses, with facial hair and blue eyes, arrived at the store. But upon seeing the man, the store owner refused to open the door.
Police also interviewed a salesperson at the other unnamed jewelry business called from the phone. The salesperson said that Dec. 7, a man with facial hair, wearing a dark cap and quilted jacket, entered the store and looked at a sapphire ring.
▪ Dec. 7: At 9:30 p.m., Konfino told investigators that Zeevi called his prospective buyer, whom he called Robert, at that phone number to confirm the meeting. At about 10:45 p.m., Robert arrived at Y.Z. Jewelers and examined the diamonds. He told Zeevi and Konfino he would have to "sleep on it" before making a purchase.
▪ Dec. 8: At 11 a.m., Zeevi called Konfino and said they would meet with Robert again. At about 8:25 p.m., Zeevi called Robert at that number. Shortly after 9 p.m., Konfino said Robert arrived at Y.Z. Jewelers to look at the diamonds again. After about 30 minutes, Robert again said he would have to sleep on it and would call Zeevi and Konfino the next day.
Konfino said Robert then began to shift in his seat, put his hand in his pocket, pulled out a gun and started shooting. Investigators say video surveillance showed that after Zeevi and Konfino fell to the floor, the suspect took the diamonds, walked in and out of the rooms of the business several times and then reached behind the desk. Investigators believe there were keys behind the desk that he would have needed to let himself out of the business.
After the robbery, the phone was never used again. Levene was scheduled to depart from Philadelphia International Airport to Madrid on Dec. 9, but he canceled the flight. On Dec. 11, Levene booked a flight from Philadelphia to Madrid, which he missed. Later that night, he took a flight from Philadelphia to Amsterdam and arrived Dec. 12.
▪ Jan. 5: Investigators obtained a license photo of Levene, along with photographs of seven other men with similar characteristics, to create a photograph book. These photos were shown to Konfino, who identified Levene as Robert. The photos were also shown to the salesperson at the unnamed Connecticut jewelry store that Robert visited the day before the shooting. Again, Levene was picked in the photo lineup as Robert.